Minnesota was riding a wave after a 25-point dismantling of Wisconsin on Thursday, but the Gophers had not beaten a nationally ranked team in more than a year. No. 20 Iowa came with intentions of bringing them back down to earth.
The Gophers (16-5, 5-3 Big Ten) had other plans, as clutch free throw shooting gave them a 77-72 victory over the Hawkeyes (15-5, 3-4 Big Ten) at Williams Arena on Sunday.
"They threw absolutely everything at us that they could," head coach Marlene Stollings said. "They had a bye this week so they had extra prep days for us, and they threw a lot of things defensively at us."
The game came down to the final seconds. If it weren't for forward Taiye Bello, the result could have been different.
With 1:47 remaining, Bello scored a contested jump shot to break the tie. Then, she ran down the court and grabbed a defensive rebound, which would lead to a shooting foul on teammate Kenisha Bell and a score of 71-68.
Minnesota hit nine free throws on ten attempts in the fourth quarter to seal the win over Iowa. The game was capped by two clutch free throws in the last three seconds by guard Carlie Wagner, putting Minnesota up 77-72. Wagner had 15 points and five rebounds in the matchup.
Bell paced the Gophers with a near triple-double. Bell had 21 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists, leading the team in almost each category. Bell sank two free throws with nine seconds remaining to give Minnesota a three point lead.
"[Bell's] will and desire and heart in terms of wanting to win the game. ... I never saw her waver one ounce," Stollings said. "We're looking at someone who's going to be a pro one day, and I thought she handled the game as a pro."
Coming off the bench, Bello was perfect on the floor, shooting 5-5 with 12 points and nine rebounds in the performance.
"I definitely think she came in and provided a spark," guard Destiny Pitts said. "She took it like a veteran and was just poised with it, and was at the right position at the right time for put backs."
Pitts got into foul trouble early in the second quarter and later in the third, giving her only 11 minutes on the court.
"I just tried to stay aggressive," Pitts said. "I ... got into some foul trouble so maybe I was a bit too aggressive."
The Gophers will have nine days off after the Iowa game before heading back into the Big Ten schedule in the final stretch of the season.
"We know we're going to have to come back next week and be back at it," Bell said.
The win over Iowa is important for the Big Ten standings, as Stollings and the Gophers will head to Wisconsin — a team they just beat by 25 points — when they return to play on Jan. 31.
"It felt really good to get another top-25 win here at home," Stollings said. "Those are exciting opportunities for us as our team loves to perform in front of these awesome fans."